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SUSA, Italy (VN) — No racing and lots of recovery — that’s Chris Froome’s approach to the 2018 Tour de France.
The road to the Tour always went through the Giro d’Italia for Froome and Team Sky. And with the champagne on ice ahead of the Giro’s finale in Rome, the team already has one eye on July.
“It’s very important how he recovers the next two weeks,” said Sky sport director Nicolas Portal moments before Saturday’s start. “He’ll take some rest and then we’ll do some small altitude camps. Normally there is no racing.”
Portal said Froome will take a complete rest after the Giro for nearly two weeks, and then slowly ease back into training. He added there will be short periods at altitude and no racing before the Tour starts July 7. Soccer’s World Cup means the Tour starts later than usual, giving Froome even more time to recover between the Giro and Tour.
Before the Tour, however, Team Sky and Froome need to finish off the Giro.
Froome’s well-executed attack Friday over the Colle della Finestre put Team Sky into the pink jersey with just one final mountain stage remaining before Sunday’s final dash in Rome.
Portal was intensely studying the road map and details ahead of Saturday’s final shootout at the Giro.
“We need to control things today,” Portal told VeloNews as he looked up from the road book. “Forty seconds to Dumoulin is more complicated.”
Sky wants to avoid a last-game fumble on the finish line in what’s been a wild and wooly Giro for Froome and the Sky organization.
Portal knows the team needs to finesse Saturday’s potentially explosive three-climb finale up to the base of the Matterhorn before it can breathe easy.
“We need to stay together,” Portal said. “We expect a fast start today because a lot of teams still want to win a stage. We can use that to our advantage.”
Sky will race to control the stage and mark archrival and primary GC threat Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), who started just 40 seconds back. Portal wasn’t too worried that Froome could pay the price Saturday for the huge effort Friday.
“There is the worry after a hard effort like that it could happen, but the big difference is that all the other guys went deep, too,” Portal said. “No one had teammates, except Pinot. And when you look at the final climb, Dumoulin only went 10 seconds faster. So everyone was on their limit yesterday. The effort was the same for all the guys at the front.”
There was an optimistic buzz around the Team Sky bus Saturday morning. Froome stepped down the steps to cheers as he donned the pink jersey for the first time in this Giro.
After suffering through weeks of controversy, setbacks and questions about his form, Froome delivered the knock-out punch Friday that bedazzled and befuddled rivals and critics across the peloton.
“There was a nice atmosphere around the dinner table last night,” Portal said. “Everyone is motivated to finish it off. First, we need to get to Rome.”
Team Sky might have the champagne on ice, but the team is already eyeing the Tour.
From the beginning of the season, Froome made it clear he was targeting both the Giro and Tour in 2018. Even with his salbutamol case remaining unresolved, Froome and Sky have trained and raced as if the double was in the offering.
The pending case is the only thing that could throw a wrench into Froome’s plans. Froome could face up to a two-year ban after testing for high levels of salbutamol en route to winning last year’s Vuelta a España.
No one knows when it might be resolved, and the buzz going around the paddock is that it will not be settled before the Tour starts. If it’s unresolved, Froome will be free to race the Tour just as he was to start the Giro. Froome insists he’s done nothing wrong and is optimistic he will be cleared.
Portal said Team Sky managed this Giro since it started in Jerusalem with the Tour de France in mind.
“Chris did not start the Giro 100 percent,” Portal said. “And he had that crash, so he really could not push very hard for the first part of the race. He was not at his peak when the Giro started.
“Finishing the Giro like this is a really good sign,” Portal continued. “He was using the Giro for ‘training’ — OK, put training with the quotation mark because we are in the race — but sometimes racing is the best kind of training.”
If Froome survives Saturday’s final onslaught in the Alps, the pink jersey will be his. That’s three grand tours in a row with an attempt at a record-tying fifth yellow jersey up next.
“You race hard, hard, hard, and now we are six weeks until the Tour,” Portal said. “We are ending the Giro just perfect.”
And whether anyone likes it or not, it’s full steam ahead for the Tour de France for Froome and Team Sky.